Tom Savage

Texans Notes: Lechler, Savage, Joseph

Shane Lechler will turn 42 before the 2018 NFL season begins, but the Texans punter wants to play a 19th season. He is not under contract beyond 2017 but wants said 19th campaign to come in Houston.

Is this my last year? No, it’s not,” Lechler said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “I have too much, I think, to offer to the game, and I hit the ball good consistently this year. I went into the year with a good plan and, for the most part, it worked out. … I think the way this year we were hit so hard with injuries, there’s no way I would walk away with the talent in this room. I’m very excited about next year and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Texans and Lechler agreed on one-year deals in each of the past two Marches. He earned $2MM this season after signing for $1.8MM in 2016. Lechler’s final years with the Raiders during the early 2010s were for more money, but he seems to have settled on a consistent path with the Texans. Lechler’s currently averaging 48.9 yards per punt, which would be his best single-season figure since his most recent All-Pro slate of 2010.

Here’s the latest out of Houston.

  • The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement regarding the handling of Tom Savage‘s concussion, and the Texans will not be disciplined for how they dealt with the matter. However, the statement said the outcome was “unacceptable and therefore further improvements in the protocol are necessary.” As a result of the Savage incident, the NFL will make enhancements to its concussion protocol. Kevin Patra of NFL.com details the updated chain of events.
  • Johnathan Joseph‘s second Texans contract will expire after Sunday’s game against the Colts, but the 33-year-old cornerback wants to stay in Houston. This will wrap up Joseph’s 12th NFL season; he’s played seven of those with the Texans on two contracts. He will turn 34 in April. “This has been home for me; I’d like to continue it being my home,” Joseph said, via Wilson. “At the end of the day, that’s not my call to make. We’ll see what happens. I think I’ve had a great run here.” Joseph rates as Pro Football Focus’ No. 62 corner (out of 121 full-time players at the position), and the former Pro Bowler would figure to draw interest on a short-term deal come March. The Texans have Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson under contract for 2018 but have started Joseph the past seven seasons.
  • The Texans could be forced to make a difficult choice after Week 17, with the Bill O’BrienRick Smith relationship looking to have deteriorated to or near the point of no return.

Texans Place Tom Savage On IR

The concussion Tom Savage sustained in Week 14 will end his season. The Texans placed him on IR on Saturday, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets.

This could end Savage’s time in Houston. He’s set to be a UFA in March and do so after a season that didn’t go as the team would have hoped. Savage ended up playing in eight games and starting seven, but he went 1-6 in those starts — six of which came after the franchise lost Deshaun Watson for the season.

Savage earned the Texans’ Week 1 starting job but was yanked halfway through it. Watson is now the future, and Savage will enter free agency in a year where there will be other higher-profile passers available via the UFA or trade markets.

The former fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh finished this season with 1,412 yards, five touchdown passes and six interceptions. He completed just 56 percent of his passes in what was by far his most substantial NFL audition. It ended with one of the uglier sequences the NFL saw this season, with the 27-year-old quarterback being allowed to re-enter a game after a scary hit left him shaking.

The Texans replaced Savage on the roster by promoting tight end Ryan Malleck from the practice squad, Berman reports (on Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

QB Rumors: Rodgers, Stanton, Bengals

Mike McCarthy appeared to move closer to the prospect the Packers could shut down Aaron Rodgers for the season’s remainder on Monday. The Green Bay HC said Rodgers was sore and the staff is “working through that” after the all-world quarterback’s re-emergence game against the Panthers, and the coach said he would watch the Falcons-Buccaneers game closely Monday night, per Ryan Wood and Michael Cohen of PackersNews.com. The Falcons are currently leading, and that result holding would end the Packers’ eight-season playoff streak tonight. McCarthy being noncommittal about Rodgers’ status after the Week 15 Green Bay loss, coupled with his Monday-night plans, would indicate a possible consideration of giving Rodgers a longer offseason to fully recover and prepare for 2018.

Here’s the latest from the quarterback position as Week 15 winds down.

  • As for Rodgers’ offseason, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports suggests it would be a good time to lock down Rodgers to a “monster” extension. The quarterback has seen inferior passers usurp him on the salary list in the past few years and would be in position to command a deal close to $30MM annually if he so chose. The salary cap is expected to rise between $174MM and $179MM from this year’s $167MM ceiling. Rodgers’ five-year, $110MM extension came in a year (2013) when the cap rested at $123MM. There are two years remaining on Rodgers’ contract following this season. The 34-year-old passer has no guaranteed money left on his deal, which has cap numbers of just $20.9MM and $21.1MM lined up for 2018 and ’19, respectively.
  • La Canfora also writes the Bengals playing A.J. McCarron instead of Andy Dalton during the final two games would be prudent. McCarron could end up a UFA depending on the outcome of his grievance, which is set for February. As of now, the fourth-year passer is set to be a restricted free agent. However, Marvin Lewis said (via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer) he plans to keep Dalton in his starting role despite another sub-.500 season being guaranteed. La Canfora writes Dalton, who is attached to a team-friendly contract that runs through 2020 but contains little guaranteed money going forward, could “easily” be traded. McCarron, of course, was nearly traded to the Browns for a second- and third-round pick. The career backup’s attempted just 133 regular-season passes.
  • The Cardinals will be shaking up their quarterback status quo by turning back to Drew Stanton after going with Blaine Gabbert for five games. Bruce Arians (via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, on Twitter) confirmed his initial Carson Palmer contingency plan will take back the reins. This comes after Arians raved about Gabbert’s abilities and with the Cardinals reportedly discussing an extension with the former first-round pick. Stanton started two games for the Cards earlier this season before going down with an injury. Stanton is signed through 2018.
  • Tom Savage‘s scary injury in Week 14 did not immediately result in his removal from that Texans-49ers game, making it a seminal sequence in the NFL’s ongoing concussion crisis. And Bill O’Brien said Monday (per Mark Berman of Fox 26, on Twitter) the fourth-year quarterback may not play again this season. T.J. Yates started in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Jaguars. Savage stands to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

La Canfora’s Latest: O’Brien, Arians, Browns

Earlier today, we learned that Marvin Lewis is planning to leave Cincinnati after 15 years as the Bengals’ head coach, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Texans and their head coach, Bill O’Brien, could also be headed for a split after the 2017 season. O’Brien has led Houston to three nine-win seasons and two playoff berths, and if rookie sensation Deshaun Watson had not suffered an ACL tear earlier this season, the team might be in playoff contention yet again. However, La Canfora says the relationship between O’Brien and GM Rick Smith has long been complicated, and sources close to the situation foresee a change sooner rather than later. Houston’s head coaching job is an attractive one, largely because of Watson, and O’Brien would be an attractive candidate for one of the multitude of coaching vacancies this offseason. If O’Brien does leave Houston, La Canfora names current defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as a logical internal candidate to replace him.

Now for more from La Canfora’s Sunday morning output, starting with more out of Houston:

  • La Canfora writes that Texans QB Tom Savage remains in the concussion protocol and is unlikely to play again in 2o17. Houston is under fire for the way it handled Savage’s head injury last week, and Savage will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so it is best for all parties involved that Savage simply sit out the last three games of the year.
  • We head back in October that Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians had not made any decision as to whether his career will continue past the 2017 season, and La Canfora reports that the team is preparing in case Arians decides to call it quits. Sources close to Arians believe he will not be back in 2018, and given the number of teams that will be looking for a new head coach this offseason, the Cardinals must be prepared in case they are also in need of a head coach.
  • The NFL has confirmed the the Browns complied with the Rooney Rule in their hiring of GM John Dorsey, but the Fritz Pollard Alliance is still concerned with how the process unfolded. The Alliance spoke with commissioner Roger Goodell about the matter prior to last week’s ownership meetings, and it emphasized that all interviews with minority candidates should be reported to Alliance or to the league, which Cleveland did not do when it interviewed Doug Whaley for the GM job. Whaley, meanwhile, was reportedly “crushed” by the process, as he believed he had a legitimate shot at the job only to realize that the Browns were interviewing him simply to comply with the Rooney Rule.
  • Goodell’s new extension runs through the 2024 season, but he hopes to have his successor in place by 2020. If that successor has made sufficient progress, it is possible that Goodell steps aside prior to 2024. La Canfora adds that sweeping changes will be made to the league office in 2018, including changes to football operations at the upper-management level across several departments.
  • There is “growing support” among league owners for reverting to the pre-2009 gameday operations schedule, which means that players would not be mandated to be on the sidelines for the national anthem at primetime games. Owners are also considering making the anthem earlier, at a time when the sidelines are often vacant.

Hue Jackson “Pushed Hard” For QB Trade This Offseason?

Prior to the 49ers snagging Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick that’s likely to fall at the top of Day 2, the Browns were the team most connected with the former Patriots backup this offseason. And Hue Jackson may have been a key driver behind that Garoppolo-to-Cleveland buzz.

The second-year Browns coach “pushed hard” this offseason for the team to trade for Garoppolo or former Bengals charge A.J. McCarron, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Jackson felt Garoppolo could be a big part of a turnaround from Cleveland’s 1-15 season, Cabot reports, and made Tom Brady‘s then-backup his primary offseason target.

Cabot adds the Patriots would have traded Garoppolo to the Browns for “the right offer,” which the longtime Browns reporter notes would have had to include at least one first-round pick. The Browns had two of those going into the draft and ended up with three first-round selections while also carrying multiple second-round picks in April after making the Brock Osweiler trade.

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported the Browns offered a second-round pick for Garoppolo, with Cabot adding the team did not go further on Day 2 of this draft to make the necessary offer to the Pats. Browns executive VP Sashi Brown said going into the draft the team was not interested in trading for a veteran quarterback.

Kyle Shanahan and Garoppolo spent time together when the current 49ers coach worked as the Browns’ OC in 2014, and Shanahan told cleveland.com at this year’s Super Bowl he had Garoppolo ranked high among the draftable 2014 passers during his one-year stay in northeast Ohio. Shanahan did not want Johnny Manziel, whom the Browns drafted, nor did he prefer Teddy Bridgewater. However, the short-term Browns play-caller did like Derek Carr and Tom Savage, per Cabot.

When the Patriots and Browns could not agree on terms for Garoppolo, Jackson pivoted to McCarron, Cabot reports. But Jackson viewed the current Bengals backup, whom he coached for two seasons in Cincinnati, as a stopgap until the Browns could land their long-term solution.

Cabot wonders if McCarron would be in play by today’s 3pm CT deadline but reports it would have likely taken at least two second-round picks to pry him from the Bengals this offseason. McCarron is under contract through the 2018 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Duane Brown, Tom Savage

Texans left tackle Duane Brown said he will not report to the team until after its Week 7 bye at the earliest, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. There is some significance to that date, as Brown could skip eight weeks before returning and still receive credit for an accrued season toward free agency, and La Canfora suggests that Brown will report in enough time to earn that credit.

Duane Brown (vertical)

However, Houston needs him back much sooner than that. The Texans’ offense has been anemic through their first two games of the season, and that is thanks in large part to their poor pass protection. Brown’s return would provide a much-needed boost to the team’s O-line, but La Canfora says there has been very little progress towards a new deal. The Texans have been unwilling to negotiate to this point, and that may not change given that the relationship between the two sides has become quite strained. However, Houston has also been unwilling to discuss trading Brown, even though there may be a number of potential trade partners given Brown’s talent and reasonable salaries in 2017 and 2018 (of course, those reasonable salaries are the cause of Brown’s discontent, so any acquiring team would need to satisfy at least some of his contract demands).

Houston quarterback Tom Savage may have been hurt the most by Brown’s absence during the team’s Week 1 loss to Jacksonville. Savage’s play was certainly sub-par, but he was under duress virtually the entire time he was in the game. Nonetheless, head coach Bill O’Brien felt compelled to make an in-game switch to Deshaun Watson, which almost certainly ended the short-lived Savage era in Houston.

That has fueled speculation that Savage could be traded, but La Canfora reports in a separate piece that Savage is not requesting a trade. His agent, Neil Schwartz, who went public with his displeasure over Savage’s benching earlier this week, said, “I’m not happy and Tom is not happy about this, but we’re not asking for a trade.”

Per La Canfora, at least four teams have expressed some level of interest in Savage over the course of the last year or so, but all were convinced that Houston was very high on the former fourth-round pick and that it would take a lot to pry him away from the Texans. That, combined with the support of veteran teammates that Savage enjoyed, made O’Brien’s quick hook somewhat puzzling, but given that Savage will be a free agent at the end of the year, it is perhaps not surprising that he is content to wait to see what the open market has in store for him rather than push for a trade now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Kap, Savage, Browner, Johnson

Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is working out five days a week and is back to his 2013 weight, 230 pounds, as he awaits a potential NFL opportunity, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. Thanks partially (perhaps entirely) to his social activism, Kaepernick hasn’t garnered a single offer since he and the 49ers parted ways in March. While the 29-year-old would like to resume his career, he’s not saying it publicly because he worries that doing so would lead to further claims that he’s a distraction, Florio suggests.

More from around the game:

  • After insisting throughout the offseason that Tom Savage would be their starting quarterback in 2017, the Texans bailed on him just one half into a 29-7 Week 1 loss to Jacksonville in which their offensive line imploded. The Texans have since turned the reins over to first-round rookie Deshaun Watson, a decision Savage’s agent, Neil Schwartz, spoke with Florio about on Wednesday. As you’d expect, Schwartz isn’t pleased with the move. “I watched all 31 plays, because that was the extent of what Tom saw in the first half,” Schwartz said. “And I can’t figure out why he’s benching Tom. I went through every single play and I even went one step further. I asked two different NFL personnel people (or) coaches on two separate teams to evaluate and break down the film to see if I was missing something. He went 7 for 13 … 12 of the 13 balls touched the receiver’s hands. The only ball that didn’t was the strip-sack fumble that they called incomplete (upon replay). Seven were completions, five were drops” (all of Schwartz’s comments are available here via the Houston Chronicle’s Greg Rajan). Schwartz does have the backing of Pro Football Focus, which ranked Savage’s season-opening performance 15th among 31 signal-callers. Watson came in last.
  • Having not played in the NFL since his dreadful 2015 showing in New Orleans, free agent cornerback Brandon Browner is obviously facing an uphill battle to return to the league. The odds of the ex-Seahawks star making a comeback look even worse now, as Browner was arrested in Los Angeles on Monday on felony charges of making criminal threats to a woman, TMZ reports. The two-time Super Bowl champion hasn’t drawn any known interest since the Seahawks released him in August 2016 (even after playing in the the Spring League this year), and that probably isn’t going to change.
  • The Cardinals are hoping to get running back David Johnson “back by Thanksgiving or Christmas,” coach Bruce Arians told SiriusXM. The initial word on Johnson’s wrist injury has been that he could be out for two to three months. Arians’ timetable seems to jibe with that.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: Texans, Bills, Chiefs, Jets

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the most important weapon in the Texans’ aerial attack, has caught passes from unheralded veteran Tom Savage and first-round rookie Deshaun Watson this summer. Asked Friday which of the two should start, Hopkins endorsed Savage (via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com). “If anybody should be a judge of quarterbacks, I’ve played with the most quarterbacks in NFL history throughout my first four years,” Hopkins said. “So I put the stamp on Savage, and I think that’s all that needs to be said about that.” The 27-year-old Savage “does everything well,” according to Hopkins, who went on to discuss his own status with the Texans. Hopkins is in a contract year, but he insisted that he has no desire to test free agency after the season. “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of teams in the NFL that would love to have me, but the Houston Texans is my home and the team that I want to play for forever,” he declared.

More from the AFC:

  • Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn went for a second opinion on his injured left ankle and may have to undergo surgery, head coach Sean McDermott suggested Friday to reporters, including Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. Glenn has been dealing with ankle issues since last year, when he missed five games. The five-year veteran entered 2016 having posted three straight 16-start campaigns. Losing Glenn for an extended period of time would deprive the Bills of arguably their best offensive lineman and likely lead to second-round rookie Dion Dawkins taking the reins at left tackle. It would also further eat into Buffalo’s tackle depth – the team cut now-Lion Cyrus Kouandjio in the spring, and Seantrel Henderson will miss the first five games of the season because of a suspension. The Bills’ only other bookend with experience is right tackle Jordan Mills, who started 16 games a year ago but ranked an underwhelming 56th in performance out of Pro Football Focus’ 76 qualified OTs.
  • The Chiefs worked out rookie cornerback John Green on Friday, according to a league source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Green, undrafted from Connecticut, spent time with the Titans in the spring.
  • Rookie running back Shaquille Cooper worked out for the Jets on Friday, tweets Wilson. Cooper, also an undrafted free agent, played his college football at Division II Fort Hays State University.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: A. Smith, Orr, Watson, Landry

It was former Chiefs GM John Dorsey who ultimately pulled the trigger on the team’s draft-day trade that allowed Kansas City to climb all the way up to the No. 10 overall spot and draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But now that Dorsey is out and Brett Veach is in, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says it is fair to question what the new hire means for incumbent signal-caller Alex Smith.

But according to Miller, not much will change with respect to the team’s approach to Smith. After all, Veach has been with the Chiefs for the past four years, so it’s not as if he’s coming to Kansas City with a fresh take on the situation. Plus, Miller’s league sources all said effectively the same thing: “nothing changes in Kansas City while Andy Reid is the head coach.” As such, you can still expect the team to move on from Smith after the 2017 season — and save $17MM in the process — as long as Mahomes appears ready to assume control.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Kevin Bowen of Colts.com says all is quiet on the Colts/Zach Orr front, and at this point, the team has had plenty of time to sift through Orr’s medicals. Therefore, Bowen does not believe Indianapolis will pursue Orr in an attempt to bolster its linebacker corps.
  • Although Texans GM Rick Smith was not as definitive as head coach Bill O’Brien in declaring Tom Savage the team’s Week 1 starter, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle confirms that Savage will be under center when the regular season gets underway. Rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, is content to remain patient and wait for his opportunity. Watson said, “It’s best for the team. Coach [O’Brien] knows a lot of football. He’s been with … one of the best in NFL history in Tom Brady. He knows how everything is operated. He knows when the perfect timing will be.”
  • Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant recently said he took issue with the way Ben Roethlisberger spoke about him to the media earlier this summer, when Big Ben said Bryant would need to “win back everybody’s trust.” That might sound pretty rich for a player who managed to get himself suspended for the entire 2016 campaign, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com nonetheless believes that it is important for Bryant and Roethlisberger to have the sit-down that Bryant proposed. Although such meetings are often unbeneficial formalities, Fowler says Bryant, whose position in the league is fairly tenuous at this point, needs to feel like the catalyst he can be and not become a source of criticism.
  • The Dolphins‘ best bet may be to simply let Jarvis Landry play out the 2017 season, his contract year, and put the franchise tag on him in 2018, as Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders opines. After all, Landry is set to make less than $1MM this year, so even the projected $17MM tag in 2018 would allow Miami to keep Landry for at least two more seasons at about $8.5MM per year, which is well below the $14MM per year he would likely get with a new contract. Although that approach could create some discord between player and team, it does make short-term financial sense.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com makes a series of predictions for the Jets, with the most interesting being that he expects Christian Hackenberg to become the team’s starting quarterback no later than Week 12 (New York has a Week 11 bye), and that he expects Todd Bowles to be retained for 2018.

Extra Points: Hawks, Mahomes, Cowboys, Foster, Texans, Savage, Conley

Even though the Seahawks have one of the top starting quarterbacks in the NFL in Russell Wilson, they would have strongly considered drafting Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes if he were still on the board for their first-round pick, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Mahomes, who went 10th to Kansas City, was long gone by the time Seattle was on the clock at No. 26. The Seahawks ultimately traded out of the opening round.

More from Seattle and a few other NFL cities as Day 2 of the draft approaches:

  • Speaking of the Seahawks, the Cowboys had an opportunity to swap picks with them in the first round, per Dallas executive Stephen Jones (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). The Cowboys instead chose to stay at No. 28 because they liked the players remaining on the board, and ended up choosing Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.
  • When the 49ers called Reuben Foster to inform him they were selecting him 31st overall, he was on the phone with the Saints at the time. New Orleans, which picked 32nd, was already welcoming Foster to the organization. But once Foster got word that he was going to San Francisco, he hung up on the Saints (Twitter links via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee).
  • The Texans sent a significant haul to Cleveland to move from No. 25 to No. 12 and select Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, but it appears he’ll begin his pro career as a backup. Head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters, including Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, that Tom Savage will be the Texans’ starting signal-caller next season (Twitter link).
  • The Raiders were not the team to request a polygraph test from Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley. Instead, it was the Ravens who ordered the test, as Peter King of The MMQB writes. Once the results came in, Conley’s camp forwarded them to teams around the league, but the Raiders would not say whether the results impacted their evaluation of what happened. Conley will meet with Cleveland police on Monday and he’s “very confident that it will be resolved” (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Journal Review). First, however, the 24th overall pick is headed to the Raiders’ facility on Friday to meet with team brass.

Zach Links contributed to this post.